An important story for any of us involved in (or who care about) the future of journalism.
One of the big-ticket items for universities as a whole is buried somewhat in the aforementioned story: Arizona State University, the centerpiece of this report, "has taken steps to shutter four dozen academic programs this year." In the current economic environment, no program can consider itself the proverbial sacred cow; it is now necessary (however sad it is to say it) for an academic unit to demonstrate its vitality in ways it hasn't had to do in the past.
For journalism programs, this need to prove themselves comes at a time when the journalism industry also is in upheaval. It seems counter-intuitive to argue that a program is viable without it being able to say clearly what and how it ought to be teaching.
Of course, the fundamentals matter, but a plausible argument can be made that "what is fundamental" is unclear. Sure, students need to write; in the past, that was easy -- there was a print-style and a broadcast-style. Now? A blending challenges us. Writing is perhaps the most fundamental of the fundamentals, and if the approach to teaching it has become murky then what does that say for the other fundamentals (i.e. ethics)?
Technology challenges us. The digital phenomenon has been discussed in multiple ways inside and outside this blog; and I think we can agree that it has changed how messages are delivered, and it has made it easier for everyone to communicate. How we teach technology (while not sacrificing the fundamentals) tells much about what our priorities are as a program. For example, do you abandon "dark room" photography because of the demand for digital photos?
Economics certainly cannot be ignored. In the "old days" (say, the 1980s) the idea of incorporating economics into a communications course would have been considered sacrilege; "we don't dare do that here," was a common cry. In fact, a journalist had it ingrained that the sales side of the house never interfered with the content side of the house. Now? Go ahead and make that argument, and get yourself laughed at. However, once you are done being laughed at, ask this question: "So, if all of you are so convinced we should do it, tell me how?"
These challenges excite me, and they assist every day in keeping me interested in being the best possible teacher I can be. No, none of us always teaches "it" (whatever it is on a given day) perfectly, but if we are doing our best we have a real sense of accomplishment. But we cannot rest on our laurels.